Longing for ‘olden days’

fab 50-s
As the years fly by, remembering where I put my car keys has become a challenge, but the memories of growing up in Small Town, Mississippi, are as crisp and clear as a summer morning.

living room

Today, as temperatures hover around 90, my thoughts take me back to my childhood when television was not a 24/7 presence and the term “personal computer” was still two decades away. Telephones were all land lines – what else could they possibly be?  Some of my friends were lucky enough to have what we called “party lines” where several families shared a line and you could eavesdrop on your neighbor’s conversations.  That was loads of fun.


You’ve probably figured out by now I’ve been infected with a disease called acute nostalgia. As far as I know there is no treatment or relief from the condition except to spend as much time as possible with others so afflicted. That pretty much includes anyone who grew up in the 50s and 60s and remembers clothes blowing in the wind on the clothesline out back, and playing hide and go seek at dusk.  You could be decapitated by those same clotheslines as you darted across the neighbor’s backyard to get back to home base. My Mama Lee actually had a dryer but it was used only by Papa Lee to stash his Christmas bottle of whisky.   He thought we didn’t know. 

In those days everybody loved Lucy and Father always knew best. We would make ourselves a Coke float, sit on the davenport, and hum along with Cool cats singing “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy doo.”  I never did know what that meant. Good art in those days featured framed prints of dogs playing poker.


I loved watching Dinah Shore sing “See the USA in your Chevrolet” when the average cost of the family car was a mere $2,749, and brace yourself — gasoline was only 24 cents a gallon!  A guy once told me that a car with fins guaranteed him a date with the cutest girl in the class.

But there was more to the 50s than sock hops and milkshakes delivered to your car window by a girl wearing skates. For one thing there was no swearing on TV.  In fact there was no swearing in life. I was once grounded for a week for saying “double darn” and that’s no lie.  (I only say “no lie” because it has come to my attention that some people think I make this stuff up.) I was grounded for TWO weeks for sneaking into a limited showing of “Splendor in the Grass” at The Ritz. Oh, the shame of it.

Those were the days when the whole family sat down for supper every evening and occupied the very same pew in church each Sunday.  Heaven help the stranger who dared sit in your place.  Incidentally, it was true what the rest of the world thought about us “hicks” in the south — we didn’t wear shoes from May to September except for Sundays, and there was no pain like being caught in a patch of stickers on a hot summer afternoon. You could miss supper (dinner was served at 12 noon) waiting for someone to come to your rescue.

My nose remained sunburned from May to September and I fully expect to come down with skin cancer any day now.  We lounged around in the sun wearing a homemade suntan lotion concocted from baby oil and iodine.  Why in the world would you want something called sun screen?  That was counter-intuitive to our 50s way of thinking.  The whole point was to sport a nice rosy painful glow, oblivious to the dangers.

We had just been introduced to the frisbee and the hula-hoop, and to coin a phrase “it was a very good year for small town girls and soft summer nights. We’d hide from the lights on the village green when I was seventeen.”  Oh wait, maybe I didn’t coin that phrase after all…

My mother planted pine trees in the front yard which were in perfect alignment for our bases in an afternoon game of softball.  I still remember her yelling at us to stop pulling needles off those precious pines.  After she died my Daddy had to have those trees cut because he was afraid a high wind would blow them onto the house. 

My best friends and closest neighbors Phil, Martha, Lota and Larry would have “fop fights” every Saturday morning.  In case you haven’t had the pleasure, a fop fight is when you take all the leftover Daily Times Leaders from Phil’s paper route, wet them down and pummel each other until you’re black and blue.  Boy, was that fun or what?  Martha and Mother are gone now and the rest of us have joined the ranks of “”retiree”.  How did it happen so fast?  


But the memories come flooding back when I hear the buzzing of a bee which is a rarity these days. Where have all the bees gone?  And the frogs.  They were everywhere in the 50s and the boys used to taunt us with them.  The worst feeling in the world was when Phil put one down my tank top.  (Incidentally, the wearing of a tank top for me will occur about the time evolution eliminates the human little toe.)

So what do you remember about your childhood?  What sparks your return to the child who still lurks inside? I wonder if your memories are similar to mine and half as wonderful.  I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to have been allowed to grow up in Small Town USA where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children were above average. (Ah, a little plagiarism never hurts a writer’s style especially if her credibility is questionable anyway.)

14 thoughts on “Longing for ‘olden days’

  1. Thanks for the memories!! We were lucky to grow up in West Point, kids now days do not know what they are missing!!

  2. And Here I thought I was a lot older than you. You remeber the same things I do. I can add kick the can. When the supper dishes were done parents sat on the ir front porches and children gathered to play Kick the Can, a variation of Hide and Go Seek. We played in the street and could stay out until dark. Around nine o’clock the game would be over when our parents would call us home.

    In my minds eye and ear I see my mother standing on the banisters calling “Douglas, Jun-yah!” Over and over. If he did not come, she would send me round the corner to Mr. Logan’s store. Often my brother would be sitting there with other boys smoking cigarettes. (Mr. logan would break a pack to sell two cigarettes for a nickel, and he was not careful about the age of those he sold to.)

  3. Yes, Helen. I can hear mother calling me stressing every syllable. EM-E-LEE. I hated hearing that because it meant day was over.

  4. Yes Emily, I remember those days too. I grew up in Starkville, which back then it was still a small town. Playing chase and hid and seek were the best, but beware of the guide-wires that held up the cloths-lines. They were killers.

    Thanks for the memories!

  5. Emily, this is definitely one of my favorite posts of yours. I love the feelings it evoked. I grew up in a smaller town than WP [Water Valley], but we had the same kind of childhood. We were so blessed to grow up in the era as well as the towns that we did. Thanks for the memories.

  6. Went through High school and college in the 50’s—greatest time of my life…..thank you for the post………

  7. Emily you amaze me. Easy to relate to all you mentioned. Great pictures.
    We would pick muskedines in a creek, bring home for grandmother to make the best jelly to ever touch my tastebuds. She also made tea cookies for after school snack.
    The girls labeled tomboys played 2 hand touch below the waiste with the boys as we were not tough or meam enough to tackle.

  8. Remember waiting to hear the bell on the ice cream truck and chasing the mosquito truck on our bikes?

  9. I don’t remember an ice cream truck in The Point. Who drove it, do you recall? I remember walking over to TA Duke’s Daddy’s store on Cromwell and getting Popsicles, and chasing them with a good dose of DDT from. “the fog machine” which didn’t kill the bugs but gave you a good buzz. I remember spending the night at your house with Ann but don’t remember you being around. Ann must have locked you in the bathroom!

  10. I don’t remember who drove the ice cream truck but we would stop whatever we were doing and run out to the street and wait on it.
    I might have been in the closet or possibly the washer. I recall Ann giving it her all one day trying to shove me in the washer. Thank goodness Mama came to the rescue!
    It was hard being a sweet little sister.

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